The Bull Singer
"Do you want me to leave?"
Joey shook his head and laid his hands on my chest. He lowered his eyes to look at his hands roaming slowly over my pecs. "It's just that…um…a couple of my friends got hurt. You won't hurt me will you?"
A soft laugh escaped me as I pulled him against me and tightened my arms round him. "As if I would; I'm no sex starved monster."
He didn't resist my embrace. "So what are you?"
"Someone who is missing his dead lover very much and growing fonder of someone else who looks a hell of a lot like him. I suppose I'm looking for someone nice to hold."
"I can't help the way I look. It's just a coincidence, honest."
"I believe you." I released my right arm and brought his chin up with my index and middle fingers, forcing him to look up at me. His eyes were of apprehension. While still holding his chin I lowered my lips to his and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Nothing's going to happen, Joey. You're safe now I just want to comfort you. Now we're going to climb into bed and cuddle together, and talk about your situation, okay?"
I walked him out into the bedroom and I urged him to keep his robe on while he settled on the bed. I put mine on and made sure he saw me tie the belt securely, then lay down beside him. Taking him in my arms, I cuddled him to me and I felt him snuggle close with his head on my left shoulder. I glanced down at him and saw his eyes glistening with tears; and his chin quivered a bit. Jees! He was still just a kid! But then so had Billy been, and he had captivated me, a man who never, in a month of Sundays, would have thought he was gay. I gathered him in a tighter embrace as he buried his face against me and clung to me. I lay back with him safe in my arms and let him sort out his messed up emotions for a few minutes, while I stroked his hair and cheek. Billy had been more or less the same age as Joey when I first met him but was already mature in his approach to sex. He had known he was gay and what he wanted from a very young age, and his father had taught him to cope with his sexuality in such a way that he fully expected to take a partner when he reached the legal age of sixteen. This boy in my arms seemed so different, so innocent and not too trusting, and not sure if he was gay or not, but wanting to find out the only way he knew. "Those bruises look pretty painful. Why don't I see if there is any medication on the bathroom cupboards?" I pulled the pillows up and laid him back against them so his head and shoulders were raised and he could watch everything I did. I slid out of bed and went into the bathroom. The cupboards in there were a Hypochondriac's paradise, including a decent selection of herbal remedies. I had been brought up in a family of great believers in using these pills and potions and I must say I was hardly ever in need of a doctor; trust Aunt Mabel to come up with the appropriate remedy.
I spotted a familiar brown bottle and took back into the bedroom, shaking it well as I approached the bed. Joey eyed it with suspicion. "What's that?"
"Arnica," I replied. "As a toddler I used to call it Dab-dab. The old bottles used to have a cork stopper instead of a cap, and that was used to dab the arnica on your bruises. Now slip out of your robe and lie on your stomach, but leave the robe under you."
"Will it hurt?"
"If it's good enough for your grandpa, it'll be good enough for you."
He sat forward to slip his arms from it, then removed one of the pillows and turned over. I climbed onto the bed and straddled his thighs, and hesitated as I gazed in wonder at his sooth skin, still boyish even under the bruises. God forbid that I would get my hands on whoever hurt him like this. Before I started, I poured some of the Arnica onto my hands to warm it, and found him looking over his shoulder at me with troubled eyes. "Okay, babe?"
He nodded and relaxed against the remaining pillow.
Joey nodded, and it was time to get started. I began with his shoulders, gently massaging as I spread the lotion over the bruises. "Okay so far?" I asked him.
He gave a faint nod into the pillow so I continued down his back as far as his buttocks. There, I shifted off his thighs to kneel between them and he automatically spread them, thinking I was going further with my massage, but something I spotted made me pause. Suddenly chilled, I couldn't believe the damage I saw. I was about to say something when there was a knock at the door. Startled, I scrambled off the bed and wondered why I felt so guilty at being caught with a boy in my bed, after all it had been his grandfather's idea. The door opened and the man himself rolled into the room, pushed by Benjamin and followed by a dapper little grey haired man struggling under the weight of layers of clothes and parcels. Behind him came Charlie pushing a tea trolley.
"I didn't want to stop your fun and have you dragged into my lounge," Elias chuckled, "so I thought I'd have my afternoon tea in here with you. This is, Archie, my private tailor. You need some new clothes, Joseph, and he's here to fit you out." Joey got out of bed and dive into the bathroom. "Now where has he gone?"
I smiled at Elias. "He probably doesn't want his new clothes smelling of Arnica.
"Oh, I see! That wouldn't be good. Do you think it will work? The Arnica I mean."
"My family never used anything else."
"Same here! Take a pair of undies in to him, Archie. Don't want the lad embarrassed any more than he is." Five minutes later, Joey emerged wearing the new briefs and towelling his hair dry. At his Grandfather's urging that the tea was getting cold, he quickly tried on all the new clothes while Benjamin politely requested me to empty my jacket and pants pockets before winking at me an carrying all my clothes away, including my undies. I raised an eyebrow at Elias who smirked and said, "Fastest private laundry in Lancashire; you'll have everything back by the time tea is over."
While Joey had fun trying everything on, Charlie set dainty sandwiches and cakes out on chine plates and poured tea from a silver pot. Also there was plenty of Welsh fruit bread called Bara-Brith
"How are we doing, Archie?"
The tailor smiled happily. "Very well Mr. Chambers. I think the boy has chosen just about everything you asked me to bring."
"That's okay, Archie, he can have the lot if he wants. The problem is whether he can hang onto them long enough to wear them when his mother claps her eyes on them. What do you suggest we do, Mags?"
"Buy him a big wardrobe with an eight inch padlock?"
Elias laughed. "I agree with the wardrobe but I doubt if a padlock would keep Angela's greedy hands out of it; she can pick the locks of most things. I should know, I taught her. I think I'll have Benjamin read the riot act to her. He's the only one she doesn't bite and scratch and throw out of the house. Failing that I'll have him drive me down to Home Farm so I can talk to her myself." He beckoned me closer and said quietly, "The problem is, my boy, I have to be careful how much pressure I bring to bear on her without getting burned in return. If I threaten to blow her and her little enterprise apart if she doesn't leave the boy alone, she will do the same to me, and I've more to lose than she has. One has to protect one's back, you know. I did try for custody of the boy a few years ago but, being who and what I am, I was rejected by the court as unsuitable. They probably thought I would turn him into another Al Capone." He manoeuvred his chair closer to the settees and he asked me to serve him some tea, and fixed his eyes on Joey who was standing in his bare feet, about to try on the trousers of a dark grey suit. "How are your feet now, Joey?"
"Not bad now; a lot softer, thanks." He turned his back to us and lifted each foot for us to see the soles.
"While he was having a haircut," Elias explained to me, "I asked my chiropodist to come and have a look at him. She treated his feet and gave him some cream to rub in three times a day. She had quite a job getting the last of the dirt out but she said his feet should be fine in about a week." While we sipped our tea, we watched as Joey tried on a snow-white shirt, and slipped on the jacket to match the trousers. He slipped his feet into black socks and a pair of dress shoes, and turned to let us see the result. I choked up at the sight of him. " Oh, Billy, he's you all over, including your cheeky grin."
Elias clapped his hands, obviously pleased. "Quite the well-dressed young man, even if the modern trend is to wear your shirt out of your pants and your tie like a hangman's noose! You look very handsome my boy. Do you like wearing suits and dress shirts?"
"Yeah, but I don't get much chance to wear this sort of stuff, except for my school clothes."
"Well, that will change soon. You're nearly sixteen; time to think about smart instead of scruffy."
I didn't enter into this back chat between grandfather and grandson; I just wanted to drink in the sight of a scruffy teen turned into a beautiful, sexy kid with looks that would have any film producer drooling. I remembered how Billy's looks had editors of fashion magazines clamouring for a chance to use him on their front covers. Suddenly I realized I had to remember Billy and not fill up with tears; and to remember him with unending love instead of grief. Suddenly I wanted everyone to vanish so I could take Joey to bed and ask him about what I had seen. I felt my cheeks burn and I glanced at Elias to find him gazing at me with an understanding smile. He waved to everyone and said, "Enough of this; everybody get you gone and leave these two good people in peace and privacy, and me to this lovely afternoon tea. You too Charlie; I'm sure Mags can look after me." Charlie led the exodus out of the room with Archie bleating about having to leave all the clothes lying about the place. "Don't be so silly, you stupid man," Elias roared. "Nothing's going to happen to them. I've paid you for them already so what are you fussing about? Get out, damn you, I want to eat my tea without you lot gawping at me."
As soon as the doors were closed, Elias let out a bellow of laughter. "I love to roar at them; it keeps them on their toes." He waved for me to pull the trolley close to him and he reached for a plate and proceeded to load it with sandwiches. "Joey, you're better than a dose of salts; I've never felt so get-up-and-go in years. Come on, you two, I can't eat all this stuff on my own, much as I'd like to."
Joey removed his new jacket and draped a napkin over his lap, and helped us chomp our way through most of the food. While we ate, Elias asked Joey about any plans he might have. Joey told him about Aunt Millie's stage club and Elias was delighted to hear he wanted to be a dancer. Joey said, "I'd like to stay here longer but I have to get back to the club. They're rehearsing for a Christmas show and I've been offered a part in it. I don't want to miss out; if I stay away too long they might give the part to someone else; then there's my schoolwork. Mags's friend is the head teacher of my school and he's arranging for my suspension to be lifted."
"Oh yes?" Elias frowned at him. "Sounds like you've been in trouble."
"It was more a case of self-defence, and frustration," I offered. "Joey hasn't had too good a time at school, and it's to his credit that he still wants to go back. He has no choice if he wants to enter a college of performing arts."
"I see; well that's different. Don't forget, Joey, I'm here if you need any help, whether it's financial or bullying teachers or pupils. You've got my protection now? In fact you've always had it but a barrier on legs stamped all over that with her spiked shoes. I think I'll start sending Charlie round to your school, give 'them bullies a bit of a fright, eh?"
Joey grinned at him. "Oh yeah; I can see the faces of my classmates when Charlie walks into the room; or Uncle Benji, or should I call him Great uncle now?"
"What?" I stared at Elias. "He's your brother?"
"My adopted brother; he was a waif and stray when my father took him in. He's five years older than me and when my family turned on me, Ben promised he would always look after me, and he's better than a nursemaid. Well now, I think I've stuffed myself with enough cakes and stuff to last me a few hours; I think I'll leave you and get some business done. I still have to make a living to keep this place going. Nothing naughty these days, I assure you, gentlemen. I do have a few strictly legitimate enterprises to bring in the pennies. If you would open the door please, Mags? I can manage nicely, thank you." At the door he called out, "I'll see you're not disturbed but if you need anything, just press the button on the bed head and Ben with come."
By the time I had closed the door, Joey had ripped off his new clothes and was sitting on the bed, looking like a mermaid on a rock, the duvet shoved out of the way. It didn't take me long to join him. He came into my arms and wrapped himself around me, raining kisses on my face and neck. "It looks like you'll have to massage my bruises all over again, Mags, pretty please?" he whispered. How could I resist that invitation, but then I remembered what I had seen before.
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